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Nepal fails to erase Dalai Lama from Tibetan hearts

June 29, 2009

26 Jun 2009,  Sudeshna Sarkar, TNN

KATHMANDU: Once, the name plate outside the walled house invisible from
outside proudly said "Gaden Kangsar" - the residence of the Dalai Lama. But
when Nepal's Maoist government began a fresh crackdown on the supporters of
the exiled Tibetan leader last year, the house in Kathmandu's embassy
enclave, once known as the office of the Dalai Lama's representative in
Nepal, chose discretion over confrontation and the sign, written both in
English and the elegant Tibetan script, was tarred over.

But it is not so easy to erase the loyalty to the Dalai Lama and dreams of a
free Tibet from Tibetan hearts. A group of 35 Tibetan exiles proved it
Friday when they courted arrest by trying to stage a peace march in Tibet.

As the world observed the International Day Against Torture, the exiles left
Kathmandu at 4am in a bus, heading towards the north. Their plan was to take
the Araniko Highway that connects Nepal with China's Tibet Autonomous
Region, cross the Nepal-Tibet border and stage a public protest in Tibet
asking for the restoration of rights and democracy in the annexed Buddhist

However, they were prevented by the Nepal police contingent patrolling the
border, who stopped the bus and took the group under control. The protesters
lay down on the highway, raising slogans for a free Tibet till they were
dragged away. Police said the bus had been sent back to Kathmandu where the
group, including eight women, will be handed over to the immigration
authorities for appropriate action.

This is the first major Tibetan protest since the formation of a coalition
government led by communist Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal. The protests,
that had continued for almost a year last year mortifying China on the eve
of the Olympic Games, were stifled after a Maoist government came to power
in August 2008 and ordered stronger measures, including patrolling by its

Nepal, who has received an invitation to visit Beijing but is yet to set any
dates, will come under fresh pressure from his northern neighbour after
Friday's resumption of protests. Though his government adheres to the
earlier ones' foreign policy of not allowing anti-Chinese activities on
Nepali soil, Beijing is bound to seek more effective measures to control the
protests. It has stepped up vigil along its border with Nepal to prevent
Tibetan fugitives from heading towards Dharamshala in India via Nepal and
now is asking for the regulation of the open Indo-Nepal border to cut off
the entry of protesters from India.
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